Traditional rulers under siege as banditry festers | Dailytrust

Traditional rulers under siege as banditry festers

Emir of Kaura Namoda, Alh. Sanusi Muhammad Asha  and Emir of Bungudu, Alhaji Hassan Attahiru
Emir of Kaura Namoda, Alh. Sanusi Muhammad Asha and Emir of Bungudu, Alhaji Hassan Attahiru

Traditional rulers have been getting their own doses of the banditry menace that has been ravaging the country. Worryingly, their palaces and stools that are considered sacred are being desecrated by the bandits.

Although they have been targets of attacks by hoodlums in some parts of the country in which scores of them have been kidnapped, maimed and killed, the increasing rate of such attacks recently has hit an alarming proportion.  

In this circumstance, many of them have abandoned their homes or palaces.


Gov’t against traditional rulers in Zamfara

In Zamfara State, bandits hold sway in some communities so much so that they have sent some district and village heads in Sabon Birni Local Government Area (LGA) on exile and appointed their own village heads.

Traditional rulers are embattled not only because they get abducted and killed, but because they have also come under the heavy stick of the state government over allegations of aiding and abetting banditry.

Our correspondent gathered that successive Zamfara State governments have gone tough on traditional rulers following alleged fraternity with bandits and rustlers.

Latest in the series of measures adopted to bring such monarchs under scrutiny was the deposition of the Emir of Zurmi, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, and that of Dansadau, Alhaji Hussaini Umar.

Gov Bello Mohammed Matawalle had earlier dethroned the Emir of Maru, Alhaji Abubakar Chika, and the District Head of Kanoma over suspicion that they were aiding bandits.

Also, a former governor, Abdul’Aziz Yari Abubakar, had during his administration, approved the dethronement of 23 traditional rulers for their alleged involvement in banditry and kidnapping activities in the state.


How the traditional rulers fall victims

Several district and village heads have been abducted and killed by bandits. In July 2018, the District Head of Kucheri in Tsafe LGA of Zamfara State was shot dead by bandits. Also, the Village Head of Asaula in Tsafe LGA was killed by the criminals.

The bandits also slew the District Head of Tungar Ruwa in an attack on his community last November. Many other village heads suffered a similar fate.

Our correspondent gathered that the incidents were due to a lack of security operatives in most of the rural communities.

Several district heads, including those of Adabka, Yan Kaba and Gayari in Bukuyyum, Kaura Namoda and Gummi LGAs respectively were kidnapped but later released after ransoms were paid. 

The abduction of the Emir of Bukuyyum, Alhaji Mohammad Usman, in March 2015, marked the beginning of the abduction of traditional rulers in the state. He was kidnapped after a night raid on his palace.

The Emir of Bungudu, Alhaji Hassan Attahiru, was kidnapped on the Abuja-Kaduna highway last October. He was released after he spent 32 days in captivity.

In December last year, the Emir of Kaura Namoda was attacked along Funtua-Zaria road and some of his palace guards, his brother and police escort were killed in the attack.


Why they are under siege

Residents of some of the communities who spoke with our correspondent said it was prevailing circumstances that compelled the traditional rulers to fraternise with bandits in their domains.

A resident in one of the communities, said, “Not everybody knows that sometimes there are some districts that are directly under the control of the bandits or rustlers. Therefore, traditional chiefs in these areas are being controlled by the armed men.”

He added that no district, village or ward head dared resist the bandits and that the traditional chiefs even received instructions from the bandits instead of the emirs.

Another resident, Ali Nadama, said, “The way these traditional rulers mingle with suspected bandits have planted suspicion in the minds of many residents in their respective domains.

“Do you know that the District Head of Kucheri was killed by armed men because he offered good advice on how to sincerely deal with criminals at a meeting with some of his community members?

“Thereafter, a wolf in sheep’s clothing divulged what was discussed and who said what at the meeting. Shortly afterwards, they came and shot the district head dead in his palace.”

A district head who craved anonymity said most of the traditional rulers, including the emirs, the district and village heads, had developed High Blood Pressure (HBP) over the security situation in the state.

He said, “We are being accused of aiding and abetting banditry and at the same time the armed criminals are killing or kidnapping us. What else do we do? We are in a precarious situation.”


They live in fear in Sokoto

In Sokoto, district and village heads have been living in fear, especially in areas that are prone to bandit attacks.

In August 2019, the District Head of Balle in Gudu LGA was killed by bandits. The 82-year-old District Head, Alhaji Ibrahim Aliyu, who was met resting in his sitting room was dragged outside and shot at close range.

Also, the District Head of Wamakko, Salihu Barade, was kidnapped while inspecting his farm some years back.

The Sarkin Gobir Isa, the District Head of Isa, was recently attacked by hoodlums who accused him of aiding and abetting banditry in the area. He was compelled to take an oath with the Holy Quran that God should not spare him to witness another week if he ever had a hand in the menace. He is still alive.


Some support banditry under duress – Sarkin Gagi

The District Head of Gagi, Umar Sani, said traditional rulers were only supporting bandits out of fear of their lives.

He said, “They either support them or get killed because there are no enough security operatives to protect them. So, they are supporting them under duress.

“They are left on their own. No security guards, no enough security operatives to protect their people and no any constitutional role.”


Incessant kidnapping, killings in Imo

In the last few months, about five traditional rulers have been killed and scores abducted in a spate of the continued onslaught against the traditional institution in Imo State.  

In Njaba LGA, two monarchs, Barr A. E. Durueburuo, the traditional ruler of Okwudor, and his counterpart from Ihebinowere, Eze S. C. Osunwa, were killed at a local government meeting by hoodlums.

On December 12, gunmen invaded Ihitte Ihube in Okigwe LGA and abducted two monarchs, Eze Acho Ndukwe of Amagu Ihube and Paul Ogbu of Ihitte Ihube, and burnt down their palaces. On the same day, gunmen abducted a community leader, Fabian Nwosu, and vandalised his house.

A few days later, Paul Ogbu, who was kidnapped on Sunday after his palace and vehicle were razed was found dead. A youth leader in the community who was kidnapped alongside the monarch was also found dead.

These incidents came 24 hours after gunmen murdered the traditional ruler of Atta Ancient Kingdom in Njaba LGA, Eze Edwin Azike.

In December alone, three traditional rulers were killed, while six others were abducted in a commando fashion.

On Thursday, December 9, gunmen numbering about 10 besieged Mbutu Ancient Kingdom in Aboh Mbaise LGA and kidnapped the traditional ruler, Eze Damia.


Embattled monarchs speak

A traditional ruler who preferred anonymity said the trend of attacks had sent jitters down the spines of traditional rulers in the state as they could no longer function as the custodians of their peoples’ cultures and traditions.

He said, “Every traditional ruler in Imo is now afraid for his life. Some of them have abandoned their palaces for unknown places.”

While trying to explain the reasons for the attacks, he said, “I don’t know. Maybe they see us as part of the problem bedevilling the country. But that’s very wrong. A traditional ruler in Imo receives N87,000 as stipend, while in the North, the emirates have their own budgets. That is not enough to kill us. But all I can say is that some insidious forces are hiding under the present situation to settle scores.”

A prominent citizen in the state who preferred anonymity linked the reason to chieftaincy tussle in some communities.

He said, “A situation where every hamlet wants to have autonomy and a traditional head is a serious issue for concern. In Abba in Nwangele, two brothers are at loggerheads over the traditional stool. Even where one has been recognised by law and given a staff of office, his younger brother is laying claim to the stool and going by the title: “eze-elect”.


Clement Adeyi (Abuja), Shehu Umar (Gusau), Abubakar Auwal (Sokoto) & Jude Aguguo Owuamanam (Owerri)

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